The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'islam'
A massive rally in the defence of free speech and in solidarity against Islamist terrorism has taken place in Paris, with the crowds estimated between 1.5 and 2 million in number, more than turned out when Paris was liberated from the Nazis. The rally has also attracted leaders from around the world, including various dictators, autocrats and authoritarians, uniting in Paris to say Je Suis Charlie, before going back to supervise their torturers giving some recalcitrant journalists a going over, or just to rush in sweeping mass-surveillance powers (which are unlikely to have helped catch terrorists the intelligence services already had on their watch lists).
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:
- In Nigeria, the Islamist group Boko Haram (whose name, meaning something like “non-Islamic education is forbidden”, says it all) have reportedly massacred some 2,000 people, all in the name of an all-merciful God, after seizing a town. (That's about 200 times the Charlie Hebdo massacre, or 2/3 of 9/11.)
- Saudi Arabia, that most honorary of members in our world-spanning alliance of freedom-loving democracies, has flogged a man 50 times for running a liberal blog and criticising the country's religious establishment (“insulting Islam”). Raif Badawi was hunted down by Saudi Arabia's morality police, undoubtedly using surveillance technologies sold by our governments to aid in the hunting down of terrorists; incidentally, Saudi law regards atheism and apostasy as forms of terrorism. Badawi is to be flogged 950 more times over the next 20 weeks, after which he will continue his 10-year prison sentence.
Raif Badawi is probably Charlie, but Saudi Arabia's ambassador to France, who was at the Je Suis Charlie rally, not so much.
Finally, it appears that the noble French tradition of freedom of offensive speech only applies to offensive speech punching outwards.
Yesterday, Australia awoke to the news of what appeared to be a terrorist siege in the heart of Sydney. ISIS terrorists had, it seemed, seized the Lindt Café, a retail outlet of the Swiss confectioner and popular tourist destination, and were holding a few dozen terrified hostages, some of them forced to hold up a black flag with Arabic writing in the window. International terror had struck home, and the Lucky Country's innocence was shattered forever, the hard dawn of the Long Siege breaking with the pitiless intensity of the Arabian desert sun. Rumours abounded: of sweeping police raids across Lakemba, a desperate hunt for the unspoken nightmare scenario this could be merely a distraction for, the diabolical plans of an invisible enemy who is everywhere, his dagger at our throats like Hassan ibn Sabbah's fabled Assassins. Awful videos of beheadings, lit by familiar Australian sunlight, were sure to follow.
But then the fog cleared and it turned out to be somewhat less than that. Far from an organised, tightly disciplined cell of fanatical death cultists, it turned out to be a lone individual with a gun and possibly an (actual or fake) bomb. The fearsome ISIS flag, that latterday skull and crossbones breathlessly reported by the Murdoch tabloids, turned out to be just a piece of black cloth with the fundamental tenet of Islam, the statement “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet”, written on it, much as it is on the Saudi Arabian flag; superficially scarily terroristic-looking, though on deeper inspection, more like lazy set decoration than anything else. The siege dragged on through the day and well into the night; neither the gunman nor his accomplices managing to get their message into the media, partly because he didn't actually have any accomplices. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, the police stormed the building; at the end, three people were dead; two hostages and the gunman.
Details soon emerged of the gunman; it turned out that he had been a somewhat odd character, to say the least. An Iranian refugee who had sought asylum in 1996 from the country's Islamist dictatorship, who had imprisoned his family. At various times, he had styled himself as an Islamic cleric, peace activist and spiritual healer. It is in the course of the last vocation that he seems to have incurred several dozen charges of sexual and indecent assault. Whilst doing this, he was apparently also writing harrassing letters to the relatives of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. Furthermore, last year, he had been charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. As he awaited trial for this, he maintained his calling as an Islamic cleric, despite finding little support in the actual Islamic community, and seemingly came to the conclusion that the community was wrong, corrupted by the “new religion” of moderate Islam. His one-man ministry became increasingly radical; a week before his last stand, he posted to his website, pledging his allegiance to ISIS, the aforementioned mob of bloodthirsty attention-seekers in Syria. It is not clear whether anybody in this group acknowledged his pledge.
There's a lot in that profile, and it's not flattering; it's like he's one part Martin Bryant (the mass murderer from Hobart) to one part Fred Phelps (also a self-proclaimed religious leader whose currency was hate); a deeply unpleasant troll and attention-seeking psychopath who escalated into possible murder. (It is not clear whether he killed either his ex-wife or any of the hostages, though it doesn't look good in either case.) Of course, a key difference between him and Bryant, Phelps, and indeed, any of the high school shooters of the past few decades, is that he was not “white”.
Much has been said about white privilege recently, especially in the wake of the killings of black youths in the US whose only crime was that it could not be exhaustively proven that they weren't about to pull a gun. White privilege, it seems, can involve being able to behave normally, rather than erring on the side of proving one's unthreateningness, or avoiding situations where a jury might rule that Whitey could have reasonably considered one to have been a clear and present danger. And now, it seems, it can also involve being judged on one's individual circumstances, rather than as an exemplar of a homogeneous, pathological Other, should one flip out and kill some people.
One can imagine how this would have been reported had someone from a white, Anglo-Celtic background been the perpetrator: a bingo-card of adverse circumstances (“broken home”, “failed marriage“, perhaps substance abuse and several possible types of mental illness); in and out of trouble with the law, the antihero turns to religion in an attempt to get his shit together, going from church to megachurch, but finding them all to be shallow phonies and leaving them behind, treading his own lonely, uncompromising, and increasingly narrow path. Then, one day, he snaps, and—surprise, surprise—nobody blames Hillsong.
The hostage taker was clearly an unstable individual. He was also an unstable individual from an Islamic cultural background, and his pathology was coloured by Islam, by the currents of extremism on the fringe of Islam and the perception of the Islamic Jihadist as the bête noire of our age. However, it looks like that was all he was; there seems to be no evidence of him having been part of a larger terrorist conspiracy, or even having had much of a plan. Some are referring to him as “self-radicalised”, which is another word only used for the scary Other; one is less likely to see this word attached to, say, the failed pick-up artist in California who decided to shoot some women to avenge having been repeatedly rejected, despite the fact that, in both cases, we are witnessing a similar phenomenon: toxic resentment buttressed by ideology. It's just that, in one case, the ideology is not from here.
Fortunately, with the exception of Murdoch's Daily Telegraph screaming terrorism, Australia has mostly kept its head on. Mindful of the posibility of a Cronulla-style backlash against conspicuously Muslim-looking bystanders, offered their solidarity on Twitter, with the #illridewithyou hashtag soon trending worldwide. Meanwhile, civic leaders have rejected the Murdochs' claim that everything had changed forever, framing the siege as an isolated incident. One does wonder how long this will hold; whether this will be used as justification to pass a new tranche of sweeping police powers or restrictions on civil liberties. (The government's planned mandatory data retention regime is coming up for debate soon, and could be rubber-stamped through parliament, even though it would have had no effect on this case, with the perpetrator having been very well known to police.)
The conservative theocracy of Saudi Arabia is embracing modern technology on its own terms; it has just implemented a tracking system for women, whereby, whenever a woman travels abroad through a Saudi airport or border crossing, her male guardian (and all women in Saudi Arabia, being perpetual minors in law, have those) is informed by text message.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom. Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or borderSo far, the system is just tied into fixed borders, but once the principle that the men who have custody of a woman are entitled to know her whereabouts is accepted, the potential for expansion is huge. For example, the mobile phone network in Saudi Arabia could be configured to store each subscriber's sex and, if they're female, a link to her male guardian, and to allow him to get her phone's location at any moment. (I heard once that the Saudi mobile phone network is already configured to segregate subscribers by gender and disallow women from placing calls to men outside of a short list, though don't have confirmation of this factoid.) Think of it like Apple's “Find My iPhone” feature, only for your wives. But why stop there? Why not a daring programme of IT streamlining, giving male guardians real-time access to any data generated by about the women in their custody, from credit card purchases (with perhaps even an option for the custodian to approve or decline a transaction) to telephone and SMS logs of whom they're communicating with. When one is committed to using modern technology to mediaeval ends, the sky's the limit.
Technology is, however, helping to undermine traditional strictures in other places in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, here is an interview with a Saudi atheist, speaking under the pseudonym Jabir, who says that, with services like Facebook and Twitter, the few closeted atheists in the severely religious country are discovering that there are others who think like them:
“I was shocked to meet older people in their forties and fifties who been hiding their atheism for decades. They said that only recently with the young generation in their twenties had they found other people who think like them and were able to find social group that they can talk and debate about their ideas in.” Jabir politely demurs when asked about the backgrounds of these people; confidentiality and secrecy run deep in the Saudi Arabian atheism milieu.
Yet, it may also, as the political system reacts to these new conditions, be a time of tightening and ever greater social and religious restrictions. The nightmare situation for Jabir is that when the relatively reform-minded King Abdullah dies it will bring about a new monarch who will let the religious police and certain segments of the Saudi community start an aggressive witch-hunt for ‘non-believers’.Meanwhile, in nearby Qatar, censors are going through Winnie The Pooh picture books and blacking out Piglet, because pigs are unclean in Islam.
Wary of the possibility that a population of educated, frustrated women could result in pressure for political liberalisation, Iran's government has moved to preempt this by declared 70 university courses to be for men only:
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year's university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran's theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.Of course, if women outperform men in academic fields, banning women may make the men feel better about their performance, but it will be less salutary for Iran's economy if half of all potential knowledge workers are prohibited by law from developing their potential.
This is at odds with the arguably more progressive Saudi approach (and "progressive" and "Saudi" aren't two words I expected to write adjacent to each other) of planning segregated women-only cities, where the nation's educated, otherwise frustrated women can work in industry on a “separate but equal” basis. (I wonder how long that will last; eventually, I imagine it'll lead to those invested in the status quo deciding that it's a threat and attacking it; starving it of resources, imposing crippling restrictions on it, and eventually shutting it down and sending the women back to the authority of their male family members, and the city will go the way the the USSR's Jewish Autonomous Oblast did once Stalin found it too threatening.)
And Iran is moving to further remind women of their place under an Islamic theocracy, by moving to legalise the marriage of girls under 10. The current age at which girls can be married in the Islamic Republic is 10, down from 16 before the revolution.
Religious dictatorships find their own use for international policing protocols, it seems. After Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari fled to Malaysia after posting a Twitter comment critical of Islam, Saudi Arabia used Interpol's red notice system to have him arrested. He has been hastily deported to Saudi Arabia, where he may face the death penalty for "insulting the Prophet Mohammed".
The Malaysian home minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said: "Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and [Kashgari] will be repatriated under this agreement. The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities."
Kashgari said in an interview that he was being made a "scapegoat for a larger conflict" over his comments, Reuters reported. Amnesty International labelled Kashgari a prisoner of conscience and called for his release.This incident has brought to attention Interpol's notice regime, and ways in which it could be used to suppress human rights. While the system does have ways to challenge notices, that amounts to little when an extradition for a religious offence is fast-tracked.
Recently, a right-wing extremist massacred close to 100 people in Norway, first setting a remotely detonated car bomb near government offices in Oslo. Then, as police combed through the wreckage, he made his way to the nearby island of Utøya, where the Labour Party's youth wing were having a camp, attired in a police uniform. For an hour or two, he roamed the island, gunning down teenagers as if in a video game, only surrendering when the police arrived.
This post is not so much about the events as they happened (there is no point in picking over the gruesome details of an atrocity), nor about the murderer's political beliefs and agenda (which should be regarded with the contempt they deserve, and not dignified with a place in the arena of debate), but rather about the media response; in particular, the immediate assumption, and wild speculation, that the massacre was the work of Islamic terrorist groups. From the first reports of the explosion, there was an immediate flurry of speculation: why are the Muslims attacking Norway (is it support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process? reprinting of Danish newspaper cartoons? Or just because nobody expects an attack on Norway?) Even when reports came in of a gunman attacking a Labour Party camp, the media didn't twig to the fact that, from the point of view of al-Qaeda-style jihadists, restricting one's attacks to one political faction of infidels rather than going for maximum carnage made little sense, and that it looked more like the motive of some kind of neo-Nazi or far-right group.
The Murdoch empire, bloodied but unbowed by its recent lapse of control over Britain's (and possibly America's) political establishment, led the charge, not unlike the corpse of El Cid lashed to his horse. The Sun quickly rushed out a front page blaming al-Qaeda, though then hurriedly pulped it when the facts came in. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the Atlantic where they do things differently, Fox News played true to character, announcing that the massacre was the first incident of non-Islamic terrorism since 1995. Terrorism, you see, is a pathology peculiar to the foul Mohammedans, or at least to threatening-looking brown-skinned people who eat funny-smelling food.
Meanwhile, as the details of the murderer's beliefs emerged, so did an entirely different picture. Rather than the work of the Islamic other, the atrocity was the result of a pathological reaction against the fear of the other. The murderer turned out to be a right-wing psychopath, who set out to strike at the "cultural Marxists" (a term used by the far right to apply to anything they find disagreeable, from feminism to bad posture). He styled himself, presumably for purposes of expediency, as a Christian Fundamentalist (though claimed in his manifesto the particularly Randian view that religion is a crutch for the weak) and cultivated ties with contemporary far-right groups such as the English Defence League and the US Tea Party, as well as other anti-Muslim hate groups. (Ironically enough, he also expressed staunchly pro-Israeli opinions; I say ironically, because chances are, had he been born ten years earlier, he'd probably have been more likely to have been fire-bombing synagogues than supporting a Jewish anything. After all, the position occupied by the Muslim in the demonology of the European/American far right was, well within living memory, occupied by the Jew. In reality, of course, the Other is a McGuffin; it doesn't matter what name they go by or whether anyone has met one, as long as there is something sufficiently different to hate and fear.) Incidentally, his manifesto approvingly quoted Tory bully-boy humorist Jeremy Clarkson; make of that what you will.
Meanwhile, here is Glenn Greenwald's examination of the "terrorists-are-Muslims" subtext in news reports:
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances. The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission. Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets -- even if the target is an invading army in their own countries -- are, by definition, Terrorists. That is why, as NYU's Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.And here is Charlie Brooker's take; somewhat more solemn than his usual column, though no less incisive.
An investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme has revealed that children in Britain's Islamic schools are being taught from the Saudi national curriculum, which includes lessons such as the "reprehensible" qualities of Jews and the proper ways in chopping off the hands and feet of thieves.
It claims to have found 5,000 Muslim schoolchildren being taught that some Jews are transformed into pigs and apes and that the penalty for gay sex is execution. Some textbooks are said to teach the correct way to chop off the hands and feet of thieves. A spokesman for the programme said the pupils, aged six to 18, attend a network of more than 40 weekend schools across the country which teach the Saudi national curriculum to Muslim children.Another illustration of why "faith schools" are a bad idea.
Recently, in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia has blocked Facebook, on the grounds that it doesn't conform with the kingdom's conservative Wahhabi Islamist values. (The big surprise: Facebook was apparently not blocked earlier. Given that even the relatively liberal Dubai blocks sites like Flickr, it's surprising that the Saudis have let their subjects wilfully poke each other online for so long.) The ban is said to be temporary; presumably Facebook doesn't usually contravene Wahhabi values.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority police have arrested an atheist blogger after intelligence officers traced him to an internet café; 26-year-old Walid Husayin could get life in prison for heresy, though the Palestinian equivalent of the Daily Mail readership are calling for him to be put to death:
Husayin used a fake name on his English and Arabic-language blogs and Facebook pages. After his mother discovered articles on atheism on his computer, she canceled his Internet connection in hopes that he would change his mind.
Instead, he began going to an Internet cafe — a move that turned out to be a costly mistake. The owner, Ahmed Abu-Asal, said the blogger aroused suspicion by spending up to seven hours a day in a corner booth. After several months, a cafe worker supplied captured snapshots of his Facebook pages to Palestinian intelligence officials.
Officials monitored him for several weeks and then arrested him on Oct. 31 as he sat in the cafe, said Abu-Asal.Apparently such intense surveillance of heretics is not unusual in the region; intelligence officers in both the relatively liberal West Bank and the hard-line Islamist-dominated Gaza work hard to hunt down dissidents, and even in Egypt, a blogger was charged with atheism in 2007 after intelligence officials monitored his posts.
Some anonymous person entered the phrase "why are religion so" into Google, and plotted the completions it suggested (based on past searches) in a Venn diagram, coming up with this map of stereotypes:
It's interesting to note that no trait is popularly attributed to all three of the Abrahamic religions. (Perhaps the average web user can't spell "monotheistic"?)
Meanwhile, typing "why are atheists so" suggests the words "stupid", "smart", "intolerant", "mean", "annoying", "angry", "hateful", "hated" and "awesome".
The Libyan government's domain registry has seized a .ly domain, vb.ly, on the grounds of the content of the site, an adult-oriented link-shortener, not being compliant with Libyan Islamic/Sharia law. The moral of this story: don't go for the domains in countries with sketchy records of freedom of speech and/or rule of law, no matter how cool their suffix looks.
At time of writing, popular link shortener bit.ly has not posted Sharia-compliance policies. Given that Libya's pulling of vb.ly is virtually guaranteed to trigger a flood of provocative bit.ly links, from high-interest-rate bank accounts to whisky distilleries, pages on the awesomeness of bacon, pictures of women with uncovered faces and drawings of random entities said to be named Muhammad, things are going to get interesting.
Meanwhile, the world's porn enthusiasts are waiting in the hope that North Korea's next God-Emperor will see fit to start selling .nk domains, thus allowing http://wa.nk/, http://spa.nk/ and/or http://bo.nk/ to fill the gap left by vb.ly.
On advice of the FBI, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris has changed her identity and gone into hiding. Norris was the cartoonist placed on a fatwa by Islamists after proposing an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, in protest against attempts to kill Danish cartoonists who did that, and produced a drawing of random household objects claiming to be the Islamic prophet. Under Islamic law, it is blasphemy for Muslims to draw Mohammed, on the grounds that that encourages idolatry. Norris is not known to be a Muslim.
With the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan having begun, some Islamic scholars are pushing to replace Greenwich Mean Time with a new standard based on Mecca time, at least in the Islamic world. The scholars assure us that the choice of Mecca as a global meridian has a sound scientific basis:
According to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric known around the Muslim world for his popular television show "Sharia and Life", Mecca has a greater claim to being the prime meridian because it is "in perfect alignment with the magnetic north."
This claim that the holy city is a "zero magnetism zone" has won support from some Arab scientists like Abdel-Baset al-Sayyed of the Egyptian National Research Centre who says that there is no magnetic force in Mecca.Not surprisingly, these "scientific" claims have not met with universal acceptance. In any case, magnetism or not, it'll be interesting to see whether Mecca Time makes inroads into replacing GMT in the Islamic world. I imagine it'll have an easier time of gaining acceptance than other proposed time standards (such as, say, Swatch's so-called "Internet Time", a weird form of metric time proposed in the 1990s and not actually connected to any internet standards), given that the conversion is merely a matter of adding a few hours.
(via Boing Boing)
A Lebanese-American Muslim woman wins the Miss USA beauty contest; America's right-wing commentariat goes nuts:
Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel pulled out all the stops, using Fakih's Shia Lebanese background to brand her a terrorist "Miss Hezbollah" and dismissed the colourful business magnate Donald Trump, who is one of the sponsors of the event, as an Islamic "dhimmi".
Another problem Schlussel's conspiracy theory runs up against is the fact that Hezbollah, being a conservative Islamic organisation, it is unlikely to be recruiting a scantily clad beauty queen as an agent provocateur. In a contorted effort to explain this, Schlussel falls back on an old neocon chestnut: "Muslims frequently go against Islam in this way for propaganda purposes. It's a form of taqiyyah, the Muslim concept of deceiving infidels."
The swine flu outbreak is having an impact across the world: the Kabul zoo has placed Afghanistan's only pig in quarantine, locking it in a specially built room, just in case:
There are no pig farms in Afghanistan and no direct civilian flights between Kabul and Mexico.
"We understand that, but most people don't have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill," Saqib said.
According to a recent mailout from Chris Morris fan list Cook'd And Bomb'd, Morris' latest project, a comedy about Islamist jihadists in Britain, has been cancelled by Channel Four. The good news is that Warp Films, the independent arthouse film branch of the IDM/electronica label Warp, has picked it up, provided it attracts independent funding. To wit, Morris is asking people to pledge to donate £25, which might give them a chance to be an extra in the film:
Following rumours in the press and online Warp Films can confirm that Chris Morris' comedy about british jihadis is being made by Warp Films as an independently funded cinema feature. The script has been written by Chris in collaboration with Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain and is now ready to shoot. Production will begin as soon as we are fully funded. To that end we are running a number of investment schemes including donations which give you the chance to be in the film.
mail enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pass this on to ten people"
Apparently, the youth of the Islamic world really like their heavy metal:
I first realised that my never-quite-abandoned adolescent taste for heavy metal had a political edge in – of all places – the Jaballya refugee camp in Gaza. I was interviewing teenagers about their strangled lives and expected to hear the usual Hamasnik lines reeled back at me. But instead, they kept using words from Metallica and Slipknot to explain how they felt. "I am dying to live/Cry out/I'm trapped under ice," one of them said. They showed me their carefully-stashed CDs and T-shirts – liable to be seized by Hamas-militia at any time – and begged me to send more.
At first sight, this seems bizarre. How did a style of music midwifed into the world by Ozzy Osbourne in the old English industrial town of Birmingham in the mid-1960s become an enemy of jihadism? How did a hard, brutal sound designed to mimic the factories of the Midlands become the soundtrack for the children of the Islamic revolution?
In a region controlled by senile dictatorships and fundamentalist faith, the unemployed young – who make up 65 per cent of the population – have very few windows through which to yell their rage. Metal gives it to them. Reda Zine, one of the founders of the Moroccan heavy metal scene, explains: "We play heavy metal because our lives are heavy metal." The point of the music is, he says, to rage against "the vampires of intolerance and superstition". The guitarist of Iran's hottest young metal band, Tarantist, agrees: "Metal is in our blood. It's not entertainment, it's our pain, and an antidote to the hypocrisy of religion that is injected into all of us from the moment we're born."I wonder whether the dominance of metal (rather than, say, rap or industrial or any other musical genre suitable for expressing anger and grievance) among youth in the Islamic world also has its roots in the history of Asian Muslim migration to England's industrial heartland. Most people know that Birmingham got curry out of the equation, but what if the cultural trade was a two-way street, with Birmingham metal making its way to the underground bazaars of the Islamosphere via Pakistan and Bangladesh on a million bootlegged cassettes?
Muslim scientists have called for Mecca time to replace Greenwich Mean Time as the international standard. Other than the religious argument (not likely to sway many non-Muslims) and the postcolonial argument, they contend that unlike other longitudes, Mecca's was "in perfect alignment to magnetic north":
He said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.
A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim "qibla" - the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.(Youssef al-Qadarawy? Where have I heard that name before?)
The meeting in Qatar is part of a popular trend in some Muslim societies of seeking to find Koranic precedents for modern science.
Momus observes that, far from being centres of culture or creativity, districts which attract "funky" bars are merely centres of drunkenness:
I thought that being in the midst of a district dominated by theatre and retail I'd be living in a refined environment. Instead, I found I was living in a sewer. Brydges Place, of an evening, became an open toilet, used as a slash-wall of last resort by many of the thousands of people who descended on central London every evening to drink... heavily. My friend Thomi, who had a studio above John Calder's publishing house on Green's Court in Soho, had it even worse: people would stand on his step and pee right through the letterbox. Later I moved to the Chinese end of the Lower East Side just in time to see it teeter between a quietly industrious Asian district by day and a burgeoning, boisterous white people's drinking district by night.Momus lays the blame squarely at the feet of white people:
White people -- if you'll forgive the generalisation -- drink, and the further north you go the more immoderately and self-destructively they tend to drink. Or, to put that a little differently, the whiter your district gets, the more bars are going to pop up, and the more your Friday and Saturday nights will fill up with piss, shouting, boom-boom -boom, swagger and bravado.Momus' solution to avoiding being surrounded by vomiting revellers is simple: choose an area with a large Islamic population.
The Graun has an article on the phenomenon of fried chicken shops in Britain, tying in the class aspect (fried chicken as a signifier of underclass status), the racial and cultural dimensions and the connection with Islam:
The increasing number of halal fried chicken shops in the UK is testament to changing demographic and eating patterns. "The Muslim community here is growing," says Enam Ali, chair of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs. "Fried chicken is cheap - [people who eat it] are young, students, with limited pocket money." Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, says, "A great percentage of third generation Muslims are not eating the original cuisine of their families - they want more takeaways, more convenience foods."
"Let's just grasp the nettle here," says black comic Paul Ricketts, whose stand-up observations often turn to this issue. "All black areas have loads of fried chicken outlets. It is a socio-economic thing. Chicken is one of the cheapest birds you can get. When people go on about smelly food, what they really mean is fried chicken, and they're having a dig at the people eating it - we have an era where we don't mention class any more, we just call them chavs or hoodies - it's a term for working-class scum."
At Halal Southern Fried Chicken in London's Brick Lane, they lace their hot wing batter with chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Most customers are men in their 20s. The story is the same further down the road at Al-Badar Fried Chicken and Curry Restaurant, where their hot wings are coated in cinnamon, coriander and fresh and crushed chillies. Manager Amer Salim differentiates his product from the nearby KFC, which, he says, caters to another market. "In London's Tower Hamlets, the Bangladeshi community like spicy with more and more chilli," he says. "Fried chicken in KFC is not spicy."It doesn't mention the iconographic idiosyncracies of these shops, with their varyingly plausible faux-Americanisms (from "_ Fried Chicken" shops named after random US states to shops whose signage evokes images of cowboys frying chicken over campfires on the Rio Grande to the ubiquitous cartoon mascots of chickens in cowboy hats.
A bus company in Yorkshire is facing accusations of discrimination against alternative lifestyles after a Goth leading his girlfriend on a leash was stopped from boarding a bus:
"Our primary concern is passenger safety and while the couple are very welcome to travel on our buses, we are asking that Miss Maltby remove her dog lead before boarding the bus.
"It could be dangerous for the couple and other passengers if a driver had to brake sharply while Miss Maltby was wearing the lead."Which raises the issue of when does something becomes discrimination. Is there a difference between Goths (who, in this case, are presumably BDSM fetishists or Goreans or something as well; AFAIK, this sort of thing is not a fundamental part of the Goth subculture) leading each other on leashes and, say, some Muslim women covering their faces? Both behaviours are at odds with the accepted social norms. If there is a difference, is it because religious justficiations automatically bear more weight than non-religious ones?
While we're on the subject of multiculturalism in the UK: a childrens' educational CD-ROM based on the story of the Three Little Pigs has been rejected from a government agency's annual awards because it may offend Muslims.
I have so far mostly refrained from commenting on the Australian election campaign. In short, it has looked like the Opposition would win by a landslide—much as it has in the previous two elections, in which they got caned. However, now it's looking like the real thing; the much vaunted "Narrowing" of the polls has failed to materialise (the opinion polls, both public and private, have hovered within a margin of error of the 55-45 mark for some months). Even the ABC is biting the hands of its despised master, seemingly confident that the punishment will not be forthcoming.
The Tories, it goes without saying, are panicking. All the rocks they've thrown at the Rudd juggernaut have failed to derail it. It seems that they have been unable to manufacture a "children overboard" or pull any rabbits out of a hat. So now they are resorting to desperate tactics, such as printing pamphlets from a fake, if ominous-sounding, "Islamic Australia Federation" urging people to vote Labor, because of "its support for Muslim causes", such as, say, the Bali bombings:
"We gratefully acknowledge Labor's support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings," the pamphlet says.
"Labor is the only political party to support the entry to this country of our Grand Mufti Reverend Sheik al-Hilaly and we thank Honourable Paul Keating for overturning the objections of ASIO to allow our Grand Mufti to enter this country."Did you see what they did there? It's not even a dog whistle. They could have hardly been more gormless if they threw in a mention to Labor's multiculturally-correct support for the practices of gang rape and honour killing or somesuch.
The trail for the pamphlets appears to lead straight back to various Liberal Party volunteers, who have been sacked. If anything, it's a sign of their desperation that they couldn't wait to get one of their once-removed black-bag outfits like the Exclusive Brethren to do it.
On the other hand, the election is not over. There is still the possibility that Howard will get back in (or that the Tories will get back in while he'll lose his seat). Granted, it's a lot less of a possibility than before, though if anyone can pull off a dirty victory from behind, it's Howard, the Voldemort of Australian politics. I won't be celebrating his demise until I read his concession speech.
A physics professor and university chair from Pakistan writes about the position of science in today's Islamic world:
Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or "butterfly-collecting" activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.
In the 1980s an imagined "Islamic science" was posed as an alternative to "Western science." The notion was widely propagated and received support from governments in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. Muslim ideologues in the US, such as Ismail Faruqi and Syed Hossein Nasr, announced that a new science was about to be built on lofty moral principles such as tawheed (unity of God), ibadah (worship), khilafah (trusteeship), and rejection of zulm (tyranny), and that revelation rather than reason would be the ultimate guide to valid knowledge. Others took as literal statements of scientific fact verses from the Qur'an that related to descriptions of the physical world. Those attempts led to many elaborate and expensive Islamic science conferences around the world. Some scholars calculated the temperature of Hell, others the chemical composition of heavenly djinnis. None produced a new machine or instrument, conducted an experiment, or even formulated a single testable hypothesis.
The question of how to reconcile religious practices with modern technological realities where their founders' assumptions do not hold has arisen again, as the world's first devoutly Muslim astronaut prepares to go into space, taking with him a document written by 150 Islamic scientists and scholars assembled by the Malaysian space agency on Islamic practice in space:
Dr. Kamal Abdali, a cartographer who is also Muslim and who has written (.pdf) extensively on determining the qibla, favors the great circle route, but adds, "Prayer is not supposed to be a gymnastic exercise. One is supposed to concentrate on the prayer rather the exact orientation." He points out that in a train or plane, it's customary to start in the qibla direction but then continue the prayer without worrying about possible changes in position.
Yet the option to pray while facing a point in space brings up another problem. Muslims face the ground to pray, in part to avoid any hint of pagan sun or moon worship ("Prostrate yourselves not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate yourselves to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him" (The Quran, Fussilat 41:37). If the Ka'aba projection happens to line up with the sun or moon, purists might believe the prayer invalid.
Questions like these will continue as more and more religious astronauts travel into space. When is sunset in low Earth orbit if you're experiencing a dozen sunrises and sunsets in every 24-hour period? When does Sabbath begin on the moon, where the sun sets once a month? When is the first sighting of the crescent moon if you're on Mars? Religious councils of all faiths will have plenty to keep them busy for years.
Pauline Hanson, fish and chip shop owner and founder of the xenophobic nativist One Nation party, is going back into politics on a policy of keeping Muslims out of Australia, because, you know, they're all rapists and terrorists at heart:
"I want a moratorium put on the number of Muslims coming into Australia," Ms Hanson told the Nine network. "People have a right to be very concerned about this because of the terrorist attacks that have happened throughout the world.Hanson (who would undoubtedly swear up and down on a stack of bibles that she's not a racist) insists that Muslim women would support her, if they knew how they were being oppressed:
"Maybe we should look at the female genital mutilation that happens to young girls in this country ... if people want to live by these ways then go back to the Muslim countries."Meanwhile, whilst we're on the subject of famous Australian
The latest fatwa posted on an Islamist website is against the Apple store in New York; an unnamed organisation claims that Apple's cube-shaped store in New York is "an insult to Islam", because (a) it resembles the Ka'aba in Mecca, (b) is known as "the Apple Mecca", and (c) "contains bars serving alcoholic beverages". Which is fair enough, except that (b) and (c) are false (or at least nobody officially calls it the "Apple Mecca"), and (a) is only true in that both buildings are cube-shaped.
(via The Reg)
Outspoken liberal Muslim woman Saira Khan (who also hosted a BBC Radio documentary on blogging a while ago) speaks in support of Jack Straw's recent comments, in which he stated that Muslim women in Britain should not wear face-covering veils:
It is an extreme practice. It is never right for a woman to hide behind a veil and shut herself off from people in the community. But it is particularly wrong in Britain, where it alien to the mainstream culture for someone to walk around wearing a mask. The veil restricts women, it stops them achieving their full potential in all areas of their life and it stops them communicating. It sends out a clear message: "I do not want to be part of your society."This claim that women veiling themselves is a separatist/exclusionary act is certainly not disproved by some recent letters to newspapers from Muslims speaking out in favour of women wearing veils, which often speak contemptuously of non-Islamic British society as being comprised primarily of violent, drunken, sex-crazed undesirables whom one would naturally want to avoid.
Saira goes on:
Some Muslim women say that it is their choice to wear it; I don't agree. Why would any woman living in a tolerant country freely choose to wear such a restrictive garment? What these women are really saying is that they adopt the veil because they believe that they should have less freedom than men, and that if they did not wear the veil men would not be accountable for their uncontrollable urges -- so women must cover-up so as not to tempt men. What kind of a message does that send to women?
Many moderate Muslim women in Britain will welcome Mr Straw's comments. This is an opportunity for them to say: "I don't wear the veil but I am a Muslim." If I had been forced to wear a veil I would certainly not be writing this article -- I would not have the friends I have, I would not have been able to run a marathon or become an aerobics teacher or set up a business.
The latest peril in Australia: Aboriginal prisoners converting to militant Islam, and becoming potential terrorists; or so the federal government says, and would they lie about such important issues?
"We're worried (when) certain prisoners that are doing very long sentences, as an example, denounce their Aboriginality for Islam," he said. "We monitor them very closely ... To us they're not terrorists in the real sense but they talk the talk. So, if we had somebody who was recruiting in a prison ... we keep them away from people that might be susceptible to the conversion."Meanwhile, US air marshals, faced with insufficient likely terrorists to meet their quotas, have reportedly taken to adding innocent people to their watch lists to make up numbers:
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
(via Boing Boing)
A furore has erupted with the publication of the Indonesian edition of Playboy. While it is a lot tamer than Western editions (the excuse of buying it only for the articles would probably be more plausible there), Islamists are still calling for severe punishments for all involved, and the editor and centrefold model are facing imprisonment:
The magazine has been targeted by opponents as a symbol of Western decadence and the row has led to calls for tough anti-pornography laws outlawing "sensual behaviour", revealing clothing, even kissing in public. It is part of a concerted push to impose sharia law throughout Indonesia, a campaign that Abu Bakar Bashir, the former spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network, vowed to spearhead on his release from prison last month.
Rock-throwing protesters tried to ransack Playboy's Jakarta office when the first edition appeared in April, so Arnada relocated to the more tolerant island of Bali.
He published a second edition last month, with numerous blank pages after advertisers withdrew their support following threats by the Islamic Defenders Front.Meanwhile, feminist groups there have spoken out in the defense of Playboy.
The anti-immigrant right in France has adopted a new tactic: handing out pork soup to the poor and hungry, pointedly excluding Muslims and Jews from their charity.
With steaming bowls of the fragrant broth soon passing through the crowd, Odile Bonnivard, a short-haired secretary turned far-right firebrand, climbed atop a dark sedan with a megaphone in hand and led the crowd in a raucous chant: "We are all pig eaters! We are all pig eaters!"
The movement began in the winter of 2003 when Ms. Bonnivard, a member of a small far-right nationalist movement called the Identity Bloc, began serving hot soup to the homeless. At first, she said, the group used pork simply because it was an inexpensive traditional ingredient for hearty French soup. But after the political significance of serving pork dawned on them and others, it quickly became the focus of their work.
America may have had Freedom Fries and Freedom Ticklers, but Iran is doing one better: the national confectioners' union has ordered danish pastries to be renamed "Roses of the Prophet Mohammed", in retaliation for a Danish newspaper's disrespecting of the Prophet. Presumably there would also be a mandatory "(peace be upon him)" after that, making the new appellation sound even more awkward.
For those who haven't been reading newspapers or watching the news: a few months ago, a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the Prophed Mohammed as a terrorist. Little happened for a few months, then the Saudi state-run press digs up the issue, perhaps to distract attention from the Hajj deaths, and the Muslim world erupts in flames of protest, most specifically in places where the local powers that be find it expedient to fan the flames. A few extremists do things like storm and burn down Danish embassies, gun down Christian priests, or rally on the streets of London calling for suicide bombings and the beheading of blasphemers, doing little to refute the cartoons' association of Islam with violence and extremism which, presumably, they found so offensive. Meanwhile, many countries in the Islamic world have banned trade with Denmark until the government apologises and punishes those involved (because, of course, the only way something can be published is with government approval). Carlsberg and Danish bacon producers are reported to be "unconcerned".
Anyway, here is an overview of the incident. Be warned: it contains copies of the Satanic Drawings; it also contains anti-Semitic cartoons published in the state-controlled press of various Arab countries, which, inexplicably, have failed to result in Jewish mobs razing Saudi and Omanian embassies.
The trial has begun at the Old Bailey of hardline Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al Masri, accused of inciting hatred and terrorism. The court heard that Masri preached, among other things, that Muslims have an obligation to kill infidels and apostates and overthrow non-Islamist governments, that Hitler was sent by Allah to "torture and humiliate" Jews, and that the ultimate aim was a global Islamist caliphate, ruled by a caliph in the White House in Washington DC.
The surprising thing is the last point. If one was to think of a location for the capital of a global Islamist state, surely Washington DC, a city with relatively little in the way of Islamic history, would come fairly low on the list, well after places with historical resonance like Baghdad, Mecca and Jerusalem, or even cities like Paris and London.
The successful Iraqi election, with its broad participation of all ethnic groups and relative lack of bloodshed, has sent Bush's approval rating soaring; however, looking more closely at the situation, the triumph of democracy looks rather hollow. The country is divided along sectarian lines, hardline Islamists dominate all three parts of it, and the pro-Western secularists Washington had hoped would prevail look like getting fewer seats in the new parliament than the hostage-beheading militants. In short, Iraq seems to be fissioning into two or three theocracies, with the Shia faction enthusiastically joining Iran's (Ahmadine-)jihad against Israel and the West and the Sunni part becoming an al-Qaeda fiefdom not unlike Taliban Afghanistan; either that or the whole country turning into Somalia.
"People underestimate how religious Iraq has become," said one Iraqi observer. "Iran is really a secular society with a religious leadership, but Iraq will be a religious society with a religious leadership." Already most girls leaving schools in Baghdad wear headscarves. Women's rights in cases of divorce and inheritance are being eroded.
Four women teaching in a remote village school in Saudi Arabia had a dilemma: they needed a way to get to the village, but women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. So they found a driver who lived in the village, and married him:
They were married in a short ceremony, and all the women have agreed to pay the driver a share of their monthly salaries, Al-Watan said.
Women are still not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, while men can marry up to four women according to Islamic law.
A request for help from one "Adoh Fadduq" of the United Arab Emirates, found in gnu.emacs.help:
Insha Allah, I am now trying to choose an editor for my software development and typesetting work. I have closely considered Emacs, which fits my needs in some respects. I do, however, feel that there is a big security issue with it for me and my brethren: Emacs was largely developed by Jews and for Jews. Considering how cunning the Jews are, I would not be surprised to find that they have hidden special bugs and booby traps inside emacs, in order to spy on and disrupt work of my Allah believing brethren. Are my concerns justified?
Australian lingerie model arrested for ecstasy possession in Bali released. Michelle Leslie, best known for appearing in an underwear ad, has been released from prison and deported as a criminal after the prosecution in her ecstasy-possession case agreed to only seek a penalty of 3 months' imprisonment (i.e., the time served). It is not clear whether she would have received a more severe sentence had (a) she not allegedly been with the son of Indonesia's Economics Minister at the time of the arrest, or (b) the Indonesians not feared hordes of bloody-minded tabloid-reading Ugly Australians boycotting Bali and demanding their tsunami-aid donations back if one of their sheilas went down.
I suspect that the pivotal factor in Leslie's early release was not her showing up in a burqa at her trial and announcing that she had converted to Islam, seemingly oblivious to the fact that (a) Bali is a largely Hindu province, and (b) burqas are not commonly worn in Indonesia. Oddly enough, she did not seem to be observing Islamic traditions of modest dress upon release; perhaps when she sells her story to Womens' Weekly or the Herald-Sun, she'll say that Islam was just a phase she was going through, as if it were Kabbala or Scientology or Hollywood Buddhism or something. (Though doesn't converting from Islam technically make her an apostate? I wonder whether she'll end up with a fatwa on her head.)
Banks in Britain are getting rid of piggy banks, because they may offend Muslims. Pigs are considered unclean under Islam. Some Muslims have applauded the move, while others have joined criticism of it as taking political correctness to absurd lengths:
"We live in a multicultural society and the traditions and symbols of one community should not be obliterated just to accommodate another," Mr Mahmoud said. "I doubt many Muslims would be seriously offended by piggy banks."
A jihadist website has published a fatwa on "Islamically-sound" ways of playing soccer:
2. International terminology that heretics and polytheists use, like "foul," "penalty," "corner," "goal," "out" and others, should be abandoned and not said. Whoever says them should be punished, reprimanded and ejected from the game. He should be publicly told, "You have imitated the heretics and polytheists and this is forbidden."
3. Do not call "foul" and stop the game if someone falls and sprains a hand or foot or the ball touches his hand, and do not give a yellow or red card to whoever was responsible for the injury or tackle. Instead, it should be adjudicated according to Sharia rulings concerning broken bones and injuries. The injured player should exercise his Sharia rights according to the Koran and you must bear witness with him that so-and-so hurt him on purpose.
4. Do not follow the heretics, the Jews, the Christians and especially evil America regarding the number of players. Do not play with 11 people. Instead, add to this number or decrease it.
6. Do not play in two halves. Rather play in one half or three halves in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the polytheists, the corrupted and the disobedient.
13. You should spit in the face of whoever puts the ball between the posts or uprights and then runs in order to get his friends to follow him and hug him like players in America or France do, and you should punish and reprimand him, for what is the relationship between celebrating, hugging and kissing and the sports that you are practicing?
Salma Qureshi, a thirtysomething computer programmer and British Muslim, is studying to become Britain's first female imam:
"I'm quite religious but at the same time I'm quite a liberal person myself," she says.
She said that when she was younger, she could not "differentiate what was religion and what was culture," and that she thought Islam imposed "too many restrictions" on women. "It's only afterwards I realised that this is all cultural - religion doesn't really stop women doing anything," she added.Good luck to her, I say. If she can provide a role model for an Islam that's in harmony, rather than at odds, with the values of liberal society, it should take some of the wind out of the sails of extremists (on all sides).
Hanif Kureishi, author of The Black Album (a book touching on Muslim radicalism in Britain at the time of the Satanic Verses fatwa), on the growth of radicalism among British Muslims:
The mosques I visited, in Whitechapel and Shepherd's Bush, were nothing like any church I'd attended. The scenes, to me, were extraordinary, and I was eager to capture them in my novel. There would be passionate orators haranguing a group of people sitting on the floor. One demagogue would replace another, of course, but the "preaching" went on continuously, as listeners of all races came and went. I doubt whether you'd see anything like this now, but there would be diatribes against the west, Jews and - their favourite subject - homosexuals.
Sometimes I would be invited to the homes of these young "fundamentalists". One of them had a similar background to my own: his mother was English, his father a Muslim, and he'd been brought up in a quiet suburb. Now he was married to a woman from Yemen who spoke no English. Bringing us tea, she came into the room backwards, and bent over too, out of respect for the men. The men would talk to me of "going to train" in various places, but they seemed so weedy and polite, I couldn't believe they'd want to kill anyone.
I found these sessions so intellectually stultifying and claustrophobic that at the end I'd rush into the nearest pub and drink rapidly, wanting to reassure myself I was still in England. It is not only in the mosques but also in so-called "faith" schools that such ideas are propagated. The Blair government, while attempting to rid us of radical clerics, has pledged to set up more of these schools, as though a "moderate" closed system is completely different to an "extreme" one. This might suit Blair and Bush. A benighted, ignorant enemy, incapable of independent thought, and terrified of criticism, is easily patronised.Meanwhile, the Graun's Jonathan Freedland suggests that the reason that second-generation British Muslims are embracing radicalism in large numbers has to do with the lack of a US-style sense of national identity; apparently, British culture is too self-deprecating and embarrassed of itself to hold much appeal or command much loyalty, and the vacuum is filled with radical Islamism and such; consequently, if Britain is to assimilate people from different cultures peacefully and cohesively, it needs a new sense of national pride.
Though wouldn't anything even remotely redolent of earnest national pride, let alone the sort of chest-beating God-Bless-America-Fuck-Yeah-We're-Number-One Stars-and-Stripes-on-your-Hummer triumphalism that exists in the US, be fundamentally un-British? I can't imagine the Britons of today festooning their Vauxhall Corsas and row houses with enormous Union Jacks and declaiming, in all earnestness, that their national destiny is ordained by God. This may have been otherwise at the height of the British Empire; after all, it was the British who coined the word "jingoism"; and as for God-given manifest destiny, Britain came up with Anglo-Israelitism, the ideology that the English are God's true chosen people. These days, however, that sort of thing comes across as a bit naff.
Times columnist Amir Taheri claims that much of contemporary "Islamic" attire is a symbol of militant extremism, or "adverts for al-Qaeda" as he puts it:
Muslim women should cast aside the so-called hijab, which has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with tribal wear on the Arabian peninsula. The hijab was reinvented in the 1970s as a symbol of militancy, and is now a visual prop of terrorism. If some women have been hoodwinked into believing that they cannot be Muslims without covering their hair, they could at least use headgears other than black (the colour of al-Qaeda) or white (the colour of the Taleban). Green headgear would be less offensive, if only because green is the colour of the House of Hashem, the family of the Prophet.
Muslim men should consider doing away with Taleban and al-Qaeda-style beards. Growing a beard has nothing to do with Islam; the Prophet himself never sported anything more than a vandyke. The bushy beards you see on Oxford Street are symbols of the Salafi ideology that has produced al-Qaeda and the Taleban.
Some Muslims also use al-Qaeda and Taleban-style clothing to advertise their Salafi sentiments. For men this consists of a long shirt and baggy trousers, known as the khaksari (down-to-earth) style and first popularised by Abu Ala al-Maudoodi, the ideological godfather of Islamist terrorism. Muslims who wear such clothes in the belief that it shows their piety, in most cases, are unwittingly giving succour to a brand of Islamist extremism.
From a BBC article, asking what could motivate normal young men from Leeds to become suicide bombers:
"Then the government aren't helping that either because they approach people by putting labels on them.
"These kids, whoever they are, want to create their own identities but are being told they are Muslim, white, black or whatever.
"The majority of the lads just want to be British but ever since 9/11 they've been pushed back time and again onto a Muslim identity.And elsewhere, questions are being asked about multiculturalism and its present implementation.
Could it be that multiculturalism, as practiced in Britain, overemphasises the rights of cultures over the rights of individuals to choose their own identities, discouraging them from joining the mainstream of British culture in the interest of diversity? In the multicultural age, the concept of assimilation is considered unfashionable, bordering on racism; the alternative, however, seems to encourage the formation of enclaves and ghettos, and the sorting of individuals into those by their ancestry or background. Could it be time to reassess this balance?
If someone is, say, Catholic or Jewish, that is treated as incidental to everything else they are, rather than as a primary and core part of who/what they are. (Well, except possibly by various Ulster unionists and BNP neo-Nazis). If someone is Muslim, however, that seems to be regarded as a fundamental part of their identity, an indicator of difference. The subtext seems to be "they're not like us": they pray differently, eat differently, drink differently, dress differently, and even if they don't, they have different values. Over time, this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, an internalised mechanism of segregation.
Part of this is due to the legacy of 1960s New Left identity politics, with its emphasis of empowerment through collective identity and condemnation of any privileging of a mainstream culture over subcultures as "hegemonic". Taken to its extreme, this would end up with disjoint, ghettoised communities, each with their own cultures and values. And when there is little meaningful interaction between communities (and impersonal transactions in kebab shops and minicab offices don't count as meaningful), it is easy for radical elements within either community (be they Islamist militants or the BNP) to dehumanise the other community as a faceless collective enemy, rather than a large number of different individuals, some of whom one could probably get on with rather well.
Word of the day: Londonistan, or the US press's term for London-as-the-Jihadist-hub-of-Europe:
In articles with headlines such as "For decades London thrived as a busy crossroads for terror" (New York Times) and "Continent's Issues include Geography and Open borders: Bombers travel freely, police cannot" (Wall Street Journal), the American press argue that London is a global hub for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist cells.
"If London became a magnet for fiery preachers, it also became a destination for men willing to carry out their threats," said a front page report in the Times on Sunday. "For a decade, the city has been a crossroads for would-be terrorists who used it as a home base, where they could raise money, recruit members and draw inspiration from the militant messages."There is now debate in the US about whether Britons should be able to enter the US without a visa.
Link via hairyears, who points out that, more than that, London is a hub of open debate of the sort suppressed in the Middle East, and the liberals and reformists greatly outnumber the Wahhabi exterminationists:
This is the world's largest population of educated middle-class Arabs in an open society. As a consequence of our tolerance, all shades of opinion are expressed here, from Hamza and the exterminationists to governments-in-waiting, to exiled monarchs and all manner of opposition newspapers that are banned and smuggled into the 'home' country by travellers and relatives. Small cabals of nutcases in bedsits with bombing videos and extremist tracts, attending Arabic-speaking private mosques? Yes, we've got them, too. What's Arabic for Unabomber? Madmen have existed here since the Anarchists came to London a century ago, with their futile factional extremism and their bombs, but it never amounted to anything much. London's politically lively - raw and strident, if you know where to look - but it's no hotbed of violence: politics, not warfare.
It is also well worth pointing out that the suppression of moderate Arabic opinion has been condoned by successive Washington administrations, who do not grant political asylum to embarrassing critics of strategically-useful despots. That's why the moderates are here, not in New York's great melting-pot.
Why hasn't Osama bin Laden attempted any terrorist attacks on US soil since 2001? Some say that it's because the US has threatened to nuke Mecca, the Islamic holy city, if such an attack ever happens again; this, in theory, makes an attack against the US unthinkable:
"Israel recognizes that the Aswan Dam is Egypt's Damoclean Sword," writes Wheeler. "There is no possibility whatever of Egypt's winning a war with Israel, for if Aswan is blown, all of inhabited Egypt is under 20 feet of water. Once the Israelis made this clear to the Egyptians, the possibility of any future Egyptian attack on Israel like that of 1948, 1967, and 1972 is gone."
The argument for this proposition includes the reasoning that the true reason for invading Afghanistan and Iraq was to demonstrate that the US is not afraid to use force, even, perhaps, when the reasoning behind doing so is dubious; which appears to be an echo of Richard Nixon's madman theory of geopolitics; that if you act like you're dangerously insane, others will fear and respect you and give you wide berth; assuming that they're not even more irrational, that is.
Wheeler says bin Laden is "playing poker with a Texas cowboy holding the nuclear aces," so there's nothing al-Qaida could do that could come remotely close to risking obliterating Mecca.
There are a few problems with this reasoning: on the other hand, if the US was to nuke Mecca, all hell would break loose; there is no way that such an attack would not start a catastrophic war between the West and the Islamic world. There'd be suicide bombers martyring themselves in every Western city, not to mention the militaries of every country from Indonesia to Algeria uniting against the Great Satan and its minions. This would be the apocalyptic World War 3 that didn't happen against the USSR. As such, whether the Whitehouse and Pentagon would be willing to bring on the apocalypse if a few hundred of its citizens were killed with bombs is somewhat more dubious a proposition. Secondly, the strategy of making such a threat presupposes that al-Qaeda are rational agents and not, say, religious nutters spoiling for an apocalyptic global war or something. It could well be that bin Laden would see such a claim not as a threat but as a promise of greater glory than he could otherwise attain.
A militant Islamist group's website recently published a report saying that the CIA has opened a facility for training agents to impersonate muezzins and infiltrate mosques:
The CIA opened its first muezzin school at a deserted army airstrip in Virginia in 1989, with the school being specially equipped with six minarets from which its agents could practise, the report said. It added that the CIA was now capable of producing up to 100 qualified muezzins each year.
Unbeknownst to them, the original story was a piece of satire, published by British satirical website The Rockall Times in 2001. Apparently the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, who republished the story almost unchanged, either did not notice the satirical content on the rest of the site or wrote it off as authentic reportage of the corruption and decadence of British society.
The twilight of secularism (an ongoing series): Australia's highest-ranking Catholic clergyman and leading conservative hardliner, Cardinal George Pell, gave a speech comparing Islam to Communism and saying that secular democracy has failed and must be replaced with what he called "democratic personalism", with paternalistic Christian government being the only hope of countering the spread of fundamentalist Islam.
"The small but growing conversion of native Westerners within Western societies to Islam carries the suggestion that Islam may provide in the 21st century the attraction which communism provided in the 20th, both for those who are alienated or embittered on the one hand, and for those who seek order or justice on the other," he said.
He asked: "Does democracy need a burgeoning billion-dollar pornography industry to be truly democratic? Does it need an abortion rate in the tens of millions? "What would democracy look like if you took some of these things out of the picture? Would it cease to be democracy? Or would it actually become more democratic?"
Perhaps, after a few more terms of John Howard/Tony Abbott, we'll find out. Besides which, "democratic personalism" has a nicely euphemistic ring to it. Given how misleading it is for the Tories to call themselves the "Liberal Party", perhaps they'll take the hint and rename themselves the Democratic Personalist Party.
A Dutch filmmaker who made a controversial film about violence against women in Islamic societies has been murdered in Amsterdam. Theo van Gogh (a relative of the painter) was shot and stabbed to death whilst cycling in a park. A collaborator of his (liberal Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who fled an arranged marriage and is an outspoken critic of human-rights abuses in the name of Islam) also received death threats, and is under police protection.
An airliner headed from London to Washington was recently diverted to Bangor, Maine, so that former folk singer Yusuf Islam could be removed and deported. Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens and currently an outspoken moderate Muslim, is apparently on the US Department of Homeland Security's blacklist of potential terrorists. Laziness and bigotry, or do the DHS know something we don't about Yusuf Islam?
While on the subject of blacklists, millions of Americans (predominantly blacks and those from lower socioeconomic strata) are still being barred or discouraged from voting. This ranges from laws in ex-Confederate states preventing those with criminal convictions from ever voting to official letters intimidating those likely to have outstanding bills with the threat of arrest.
Two US political links lifted from unsworn@lj: apparently President Bush is being heavily medicated by his handlers to control his increasingly erratic behaviour. Which is understandable, as you wouldn't want the Leader of the Free World, say, ordering a surprise nuclear strike on Cuba or suddenly sending British and Australian troops into Canada or something; on the other hand, the drugs are claimed to impair the President's mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and ability to respond to a crisis:
Dr. Frank diagnosed the President as a "paranoid meglomaniac" and "untreated alcoholic" whose "lifelong streak of sadism, ranging from childhood pranks (using firecrackers to explode frogs) to insulting journalists, gloating over state executions and pumping his hand gleefully before the bombing of Baghdad" showcase Bush's instabilities. "I was really very unsettled by him and I started watching everything he did and reading what he wrote and watching him on videotape. I felt he was disturbed," Dr. Frank said. "He fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested but not treated."
Meanwhile, some congresspersons are now pushing for UN supervision of the US Presidential elections. Apparently bills banning the UN from monitoring US elections are being or have been passed, though; pity, as it'd have been amusing to see the fraças as France, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia volunteer officials to the multinational election monitoring team.
Speaking of Our Saudi Friends, they've now proposed an Islamic peacekeeping force for Iraq, which the US has cautiously agreed with. Which all sounds like a case of the fox winning the chicken-coop-guarding contract. Apart from more or less putting the damper on the ideal much promoted by the neocons of a pluralist, secular, McDonalds-enabled democracy arising in Iraq (or, indeed, of Iraqi women even retaining the rights they had under Saddam's neo-Stalinist dictatorship, for that matter), the Islamic militants currently streaming into Iraq to kill infidels are likely to get a rich new sponsor than be put out of business. Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive, must be a very happy man these days.
Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone markets are in Islamic countries, from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia. So is it any great surprise that there is now a mobile phone designed for Muslims? The Ilkone i800, designed in the United Arab Emirates, has as its features an Islamic/Gregorian date converter, a prayer time calculator, a device for showing the direction to Mecca and the complete searchable text of the Koran, in English and Arabic, as well as the usual polyphonic ringtones, GPRS and "exciting action games". (via Worldchanging)
Among recent news stories: intelligence "chatter" suggests impending al-Qaeda terrorist attack, possibly timed to coincide with the US elections (could this be the much-speculated-about October Surprise?). Meanwhile, in Israel, a group of soldiers are being investigated over an art exhibition detailing the brutalisation of Palestinians; it seems (from the report) to be more a case of them acting as whistle-blowers than Lynndie England Mk. 2. In the United Nations, the US has given up on renewing its immunity from war crimes prosecution, after realising that they weren't going to get it; however, in Iraq, they are pushing for immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, with, of course, the full agreement of the Iraqi people. And in England and Wales, authorities are re-examining more than 100 murders which they suspect of being "honour killings"; there appears to be a sophisticated infrastructure for such killings, with "bounty hunters" making a business out of tracking down victims.
What does a radical Muslim lesbian look like? Probably something like Irshad Manji, the Canadian-based author of The Trouble with Islam, a manifesto for a new Islamic reformation, for which she has received very specific death threats:
The core concept in Manji's thought -- and that of all progressive Muslims -- is "itjihad". It's a simple idea, and devastatingly powerful. Itjihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Koran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Koran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.
"For example, the next time you hear an Islamo-fetishist, an imam of the ninth-century school, wax eloquent that Muslim societies today have their own forms of democracy thank you very much, we don't need to take any lessons, right there, ask him a few questions. What rights do women and religious minorities actually exercise in these democracies? Not in theory, but in actuality. Don't tell me what the Koran says, because the Koran, like every other holy book, is all over the map, OK. No, tell me what is happening on the ground." She continues, her voice hard and rhythmic, "Tell me when your people vote in free elections. Tell me how many free, uncensored newspapers there are in your 'democracy'. There is, I believe, such a thing as the soft racism of low expectations. And I believe that there is more virtue in expecting Muslims like anybody else, to rise above low expectations, because you know what? We're capable of it."
Manji offers a specific solution for undermining Islamic fundamentalism and ushering in a reformation; her plan involves diverting a large chunk of the West's foreign aid and national security budgets to small business loans to Muslim women, which would have the effect of empowering women in Islamic societies, and undermining the culture that created al-Qaeda.
This feminism shouldn't be alien to good Muslims, she adds. "Muhammad's beloved first wife Khadija was a self-made merchant for whom the Prophet worked for many years. I sometimes point out to Muslim men that if they are serious about emulating the Prophet, then they should go work for their wives."
A well-researched refutation of recent claims that Europe is being transformed into an Islamic society by waves of Islamic immigrants and their higher birth rates. The dire predictions of the impending Islamicisation of France tends to be based on simplistic straight-line extrapolations of current birth rates, ignorance of the effects of exogamy and assimilation, assumption of a single Islamic ur-culture capable of defeating the decadent liberal culture of the natives, and a good dose of alarmism and jingoism:
Americans who use these arguments are motivated mainly by schadenfreude. Are European countries skeptical about the Bush Administration's foreign policy goals? Could they be interpreted as at least sharing some interests with Muslim countries. We see this in Bat Ye'or, for instance, as she condemns a "Eurabia" created by Muslim immigration which has made Europe suicidally anti-Israeli. ('Suicidally," since anything Israel does is necessary for its defense and ultimately the defense of Europe.) We see this in Little Green Footballs, where nationalistic American posters say that the French will be under shari'a law because these decadent immoral people refuse to have enough children to keep Muslims from inheriting the country. They--sometimes just the French, sometimes the French with the Germans and Belgians, sometimes the entire continent--refuse to support us in our war against Muslims. Accordingly, they will pay the price, and see if we will save them from their short-sighted stupidities this time. Their opposition to our rightful crusade contains their own punishment. FrontPageMag's treatment of Spain, following the Popular Party's recent electoral losses, is a classic example.
(via Charlie's Diary)
Is the future of Europe an Islamic one? This article suggests so, pointing at declining birth rates and the need for immigration (which would come from Islamic countries), and makes dark allusions to Gibbon's Decline and Fall and hypothetical histories in which Muslims conquered Europe. Though it seems to equate European culture with Christianity (whose relevance has been declining there over the past few centuries), rather than post-Enlightenment modernism and liberalism. (via MeFi)
An interesting look at the recent rise of anti-semitism in Europe:
The forum asserts that the most dangerous strand has its roots in Islam and that the rising number of Muslims in Europe is responsible for fuelling terror attacks, street violence and general harassment of Jews... it was revealed that the EU's racism watchdog has suppressed a report on anti-semitism because it concluded that Muslims were behind many incidents.
Deborah Lipstadt, the academic who won a libel victory after describing the rightwing historian David Irving as a Holocaust denier, this month described the "new" anti-semitism as directed at the "Rambo Jew, the Jew who is the aggressor".
"Sharon has a long record of calling Israeli critics of his policies traitors, and foreign critics anti-semites. The left is concerned that Sharon's policies are endangering Israel's future by fuelling virulent and violent anti-semitism."
The question arises of how closely criticism of Israeli policies (which, it must be said, have been somewhat hard-line in recent years) is connected with anti-semitic ideology. On one hand, it's implausible to assume that ideological anti-semites haven't jumped on this bandwagon (after all, there were reports of neo-Nazis joining the radical vegetarian/animal-rights movement looking for sufficiently zealous extremists to network with, a somewhat more bizarre scenario; closer to the situation, there were reports of neo-Nazi front groups joining the anti-capitalist protest movement, and trying to replace criticism of globalisation with discussion of "globalism", aka the cosmopolitan Elders-of-Zion bête noire). On the other hand, tarring all criticism of Israel with the brush of anti-semitism is obviously absurd, as much as accusing all critics of the Bush administration of despising Americans.
File alongside "Israeli guard pigs": Animal Liberation have found a novel way of sabotaging live sheep shipments to the Middle East: by surreptitiously feeding the sheep rendered pig meal, causing them to become inedible under Islamic law.
Mind you, eating sheep that have been fed pig meal may not be all that good for non-Muslims either, what with the possibility of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and all that. I wonder whether this could inspire PETA or someone to start tainting animal feed with BSE pathogens (or claiming to have done so) to encourage people to stop eating meat.
Israeli settlers are planning to use guard pigs to defend settlements from attackers. Pigs are believed to have a better sense of smell than dogs; also, contact of any sort with a pig renders Islamic militants ineligible for martyrdom and the statutory 70 virgins (or was it raisins?). The one catch is that the raising of pigs is forbidden in orthodox Judaism, though settlers are requesting a special exemption for this scheme from their rabbis. (Though couldn't the bombers get a special exemption for fighting off Israeli guard pigs from their imams?)
And while we're on the topic of martyrdom, suicide bombers in Iraq are apparently kidnapping babies, wrapping them in explosives and leaving them in public places as bombs. I suppose if you believe in martyrdom and the absolute rightness of your cause, any act of depravity that helps The Cause can be justified; those innocent bystanders you slaughtered in the course of Getting Your Message Across will get their recompense in the afterlife. (via mitch)
Jordan's parliament overwhelmingly rejects ban on "honour killings", claiming that the ban would "encourage vice and destroy social values". Which is almost exactly the same words as used by Christian conservatives in America opposing anti-bullying laws for schools. Funny how religious reactionaries of all stripes will rally in the defense of thuggishness, because, in their world view, the alternative is far worse.
Authorities across the Middle East are cracking down on music subcultures: form heavy-metal fans in Morocco to gay disco-dancing "Satanists" in Lebanon to anything to do with Michael Jackson in Saudi Arabia.
Among the objects exhibited in court as being contrary to good morals was a black T-shirt with heavy metal symbols on it. This prompted the judge to comment that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie".
Lebanese devil worshippers are easily recognised. According to one security official, they are young men with long hair and beards who "listen to hard rock music, drink mind-altering alcoholic cocktails and take off their black shirts, dancing bare-chested".
What is probably the most bizarre heavy-metal-and-satanism case occurred in Egypt in 1997 when state security police, armed with machine guns and satanically clad in masks and black uniforms, dragged about 70 youngsters - some as young as 16 - from their beds in a series of dawn raids. They took away posters from bedroom walls, CDs and tapes ranging from Guns 'n' Roses to Beethoven's fifth symphony and, in one household, a black t-shirt with a Bugs Bunny design.
"In the 1980s," Mohammed continued, "Saudis started dressing like [Michael Jackson], copying his hairstyle and doing moonwalks on the roundabouts. This is the reason most people give me about why his stuff is not allowed here.
Arab-American stand-up comedians are making some rather edgy jokes:
"I'm normal, people, just like you. I put my pants on one leg at a time, strap on a bomb, go to work," said Helen Maalik, a Syrian-born comic.
"There's only one thing I've got to say about racial profiling: It's awesome. Seriously. Look at me. I got my ass kicked all through high school. And now, people are actually scared of me,"
Dan Ahdoot's family is from Iran, though he was born in the United States. "No guys, that's a lie. I'm not Iranian. I was Iranian for 23 years up until Sept. 11th and now I'm Puerto Rican because that makes life a lot easier."
"We want to become more American than Americans. So, me and my family have been discussing it and we're actually thinking about turning in my father. Not because he did anything, but it would just make us look so f------ patriotic," Malak joked.
Prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer Karpal Singh has claimed that Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (you know, the one who blamed the International Jewish Conspiracy for Malaysia's economic woes and keeps accusing Australia of racist contempt for "Asian values" for refusing to silence critics of his regime) is moving Malaysia towards sharia law. Mahathir declared 18 months ago, for reasons of political expediency, that Malaysia is "a fundamentalist Islamic state", ignoring the Supreme Court's pronouncements that Malaysia is a secular state, and has had little respect for the evil British imperialist legacy of common law and an independent judiciary. His edict and the fact that many of Malaysia's judges are on the verge of retiring have emboldened Islamist hardliners seeking to abolish common law. Could Mahathir be the next Mugabe?
Minority Christians and Mandaeans fleeing persecution in Iran end up in Australian detention centers, where they are persecuted by Muslim extremist refugees:
Mandaeans say Muslim extremists have defecated on them, and set fire to Mandaean and Christian accommodation when these groups don't join planned disturbances. Mandaeans say an extremist religious leader in detention has issued a "fatwa" that killing Mandaeans is sanctioned in Islam.
Screws at the detention centres have, of course, ignored these complaints. Firstly, they're probably just troublemakers making up stories out of pure spite and ingratitude. Secondly, the screws, being in the prison business, know from experience that laissez-faire policies in high-pressure prisons can be useful for creating a man-made hell, and deterring others from coming over.
(Btw, these sorts of Islamofascist extremists are around in significant proportions in the detention centres? That's a far cry from the cuddly, doe-eyed refugees the good burghers of North Fitzroy and such have been offering their spare rooms to. Of course, many probably weren't murderous zealots before, and have been radicalised by the detention centres; which amounts to Australia basically giving al-Qaeda and its ilk a surfeit of potential recruits with a burning hatred of the west.)
An interesting WIRED article about E-Gold, an anonymous, gold-based online payment system which can be used to buy everything from EFF memberships to ammunition to cheap books and flag-burning kits (not to mention shares in pyramid schemes and online gambling). It has a related denomination called the E-Dinar, based on an Islamic gold standard defined in the Koran, and for all the anarcho-libertarian kudos it gets, it owes its existence to a radical Islamic sufi sect sworn to the cause of eliminating the evil of paper currency and destroying capitalism:
E-dinar's British COO, Yahya Cattanach, and his family share a communal condo with Castiñeira in the comfortable Jumeirah district of Dubai. The company's Spanish president, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, is also the president of the Islamic Mint. And finally, uniting all three men - as well as e-dinar's Swiss CEO, Malaysian CFO, and German CTO - is one crucial biographical datum: All are high-placed members of the Murabitun movement, a modern, Western offshoot of Sufi Islam and possibly the only religious sect in history whose defining article of faith is a financial theory.
A global gold-backed Islamic currency may not be so far-fetched. Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad (best known for berating Australia for its racist commitment to pluralism and intolerance of "Asian values" and such, and denouncing currency trading as a Jewish plot to destroy the economies of Muslim nations) has proposed a global "Islamic trading block" based around the gold-backed "Islamic dinar", which would instantly make E-Gold the currency of a big chunk of the world.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League, the pressure group best known for releasing a list of "hate symbols" including the "peace" and "anarchy" symbols and the Wiccan five-pointed star, has warned that E-Gold is a terrorist tool; then again, aren't open 802.11 access points and MP3 sharing networks also a terrorist tool? Is anything not a terrorist tool these days? (via vigilant.tv)
Faith-based government: Florida, the state which gave George W. Bush the presidency, is leading the U.S. in its march towards theocracy. Case in point: the new Bush-appointed head of Florida's child welfare agency and his outspokenly fundamentalist views; among other things, he believes that ''biblical spanking'' that leads to ``temporary and superficial bruises or welts do not constitute child abuse'', that women should not work, and that husbands have ``final say in any family dispute.''
The essay also said Christians should not marry non-Christians, that divorce is acceptable only when there is adultery or desertion and that wives should view working outside the home as ''bondage.'' The ''radical feminist movement,'' the essay adds, ``has damaged the morale of many women and convinced men to relinquish their biblical authority in the home.''
(Notice the use of the word "biblical" there, seemingly to mean "atavistically brutal". Barbarism begins at home, folks.)
In other faith-based-government news, a woman in Nigeria has lost an appeal against a death sentence for bearing a child out of wedlock, and is sentenced to die by stoning (a slow and uncommonly unpleasant method of execution) as soon as her child is weaned. Her boyfriend was discharged.
So a woman who didn't harm anyone is sentenced to be tortured to death in a spectacle of bestial sadism, all in the name of an infinitely merciful God.
A new menace is threatening the impressionable youth of Malaysia; the menace of black metal, heavy-metal music with Satanic subtexts. It is not clear how Malaysian Black Metal differs from the Norwegian variant (presumably it'd be more anti-Islamic than anti-Christian, for one), or whether the menace is so far just headbangers getting down to imported Burzum CDs, but clerics say thay have found evidence of heavy metal fans being involved in Satanic activities. the Malaysian government, meanwhile, is taking firm steps to nip the problem in the bud, including ordering radio stations to play less heavy metal and requiring touring bands to submit videotapes before playing concerts. A committee of government-appointed clerics has called for a total ban on black metal music and associated imagery, and some schools have reportedly began strip-searching students for tattoos linked with the subculture.
Fortean phenomenon of the day:Islamic inscription found in tomato. (BBC News)